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for when a hard thing happens and your feelings are not your friend

Ever have one of those weeks? When you are surprised by a hard thing you never saw coming and it catches your heart and you can’t even breathe. When your feelings are hurt – you feel betrayed, you are disappointed, you are bewildered, you’re sad. When you protect yourself from feeling the hurt with anger, bitterness and vindictiveness. When you are feeling all of it and your physical, mental and EMOTIONAL responses are wildly unpredictable and pretty much none of them feel good.

And all the time you’re angry and bitter, you are looking outward and blaming, but then you also submerge yourself in an internal dialogue that goes something like this:

I’m a stupid idiot.

If only I would have …

If only I wouldn’t have …

If only I could have …

WHY did I invest myself? I know better!

And all of those implicitly lead to this:

I’m not valuable.

Hurt feelings = I’m a stupid idiot = I’m not valuable.

Or is that last part too big of a leap?

I don’t think so. Because a constant dialogue in your head about what a creep you are turns into self-loathing. The dictionary definition of loathing is this:

strong dislike or disgust; intense aversion

Whoa. Strong words, right? But if this is how I feel about myself (and by the way I’d never talk to anyone else the way I talk to myself) then I am loathing mySELF. My thinking, my feeling, my speaking, my behavior, all of it – I loathe.

How can I possibly feel valuable when I dislike myself so strongly?

So while the circumstances of my hurt feelings were difficult, I have realized these two things about myself:

First – Ick. I don’t like feelings. (Well I pretty much knew that, but it’s a good reminder.)

Second – When I feel betrayed or rejected, I catapult back to being that betrayed, rejected kid, especially the teenager, and also to that betrayed, rejected young woman. I think most of us have felt that way at some point in our lives for any variety of reasons.

[If you’ve never felt like that kid or young woman, I’m so happy about that for you. For real I am.]

If you’re like me and get stuck in old old feelings sometimes, here’s two things I can do:

First, I have to recognize that the way I’m feeling is triggered by things that happened in the life I was living many long years (decades) ago. When that old junk rears its ugly head, I tend to REACT out of those hurt feelings, out of those blaming feelings, instead of RESPONDING thoughtfully and in a grown-up way.

And when I react instead of respond, I often regret what I said/did, or at least replay it endlessly doing the coulda woulda shoulda thing.

And so that endless loop now includes talking crap on myself.

I have to recognize ALL of that.

Second, be introspective for a little while. Pay attention to the trigger, to the feelings – identify their source (if I can). By doing this I am able to separate old hurts from current circumstances. I can explore why that old thing made me feel this way now. I can begin to release myself from that self-loathing because the old thing has suddenly lost its power over me. Do I still feel hurt? Yep. Do I want a repeat of the thing? Nope.

And now I can choose my next move (if any) wisely. I can put aside the old thing, and rationally handle the new thing by responding instead of reacting. I can be sad without being devastated, I can wish things had been different without blaming myself for what was beyond my control. I can be disappointed instead of angry. I can be bewildered without attributing the cause to myself.

Always always I need to own up to my part, though. Sorting through old junk is helpful and valid when it’s used for me to grow in a healthy way. Excusing my current bad behavior because I got hurt a long time ago is not helpful or valid.

So there’s the tension of not being too hard on myself while simultaneously taking responsibility for what is mine.

If I make healthy adult choices, nothing may change but at least I will have no regrets about the way I handled myself.


I want IF to turn into WHEN – I want to always respond instead of react, I want to take responsibility for my stuff right away, I want to do these things without hours (days, weeks, months) of feeling all the feelings and talking to myself terribly.

I want to be ok with the “but nothing will change” outcome that is so difficult for me to accept.

I want to have no regrets.

It’s surely an up and down kind of process, but I’ve hopped on the ride. Separating the old from the new has truly transformed the way I’ve looked at my recent hard thing. (Don’t get me wrong, this was a days-long journey of screaming emotions before it dawned on me that I was reacting to old junk, not the new thing.)

And I’m so grateful, because while I still feel sadness I am not angry. I have peace about the hard thing, and I have no regrets about the way I handled myself. Eventually the web of lies I told myself was banished (well, taken down to a low roar anyway) and I am left with some hurty feelings … and peace.

Above all, I’m valuable. I. AM. VALUABLE. Other people don’t determine my value, God does. He did. He will. Who will I believe? Humans or God? The God who created me in HIS IMAGE loves me just as I am. After all, he made me just like I am. He’s the one I can completely rely on, because he never changes.

And you – YOU ARE VALUABLE. You are also created in God’s image, and you can rely on him when the humans hurt you because he loves you and he never changes. Don’t leave him out of this process, this journey, this introspection. Take courage, for he will NEVER leave you. He longs to guide you.

What’s your hurt right now? How do you handle your triggers? Do you talk to yourself in a not-nice way? Do you believe the truth about you?

I pray you believe it.


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  1. Seeking Serenity Seeking Serenity

    Thanks, Angie! A very nice reminder that even when others treat us badly, we must guard ourselves against internalizing it with negative self-talk. Also, to be mindfully aware of how circumstances in our past impact how we react to today's circumstances. We can't control how others treat us, but we can control how we react to it, both internally with our feelings and externally with our actions. Thanks for opening the window to your soul for us to see inside. That kind of vulnerability takes guts!

    • Angie Clayton Angie Clayton

      Thanks for reading Serenity! These are things I've struggled with for so so long – finally brave enough to give them voice. Thanks for your kind comments.

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